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Francis Thomas Dean (Tom) Carrington (1843–1918)

by Marguerite Mahood

This article was published:

Francis Thomas Dean Carrington (1843-1918), by Gaul & Dunn, 1868-69

Francis Thomas Dean Carrington (1843-1918), by Gaul & Dunn, 1868-69

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29507

Francis Thomas Dean (Tom) Carrington (1843-1918), journalist, political cartoonist and illustrator, was born on 17 November 1843 in London, son of William Carrington, M.D., and his wife Mary Ann, née Green. He is believed to have had his first drawing lessons from George Cruikshank (1792-1878), the English caricaturist. He studied at the South Kensington School of Art and began his professional career with Clarke & Co., publishers, of Paternoster Row. His first printed work was a title page for a Mayne Reid novel. He came to Australia in the 1860s to search for gold and prospected at Wood's Point, Jericho, Jordan and Crooked River. Unsuccessful, he drifted to Melbourne in 1866 and brought some small drawings to Jardine Smith, editor and proprietor of Melbourne Punch. One was accepted, and he began an association with Punch that lasted over twenty years, some of them the stormiest and most recriminatory in Victorian politics.

Carrington was the man for the times. He was a fighting cartoonist with venom in his pen and an acute appreciation of the political vernacular of the day. His caricatures of (Sir) Graham Berry and his colleagues in 1877-81 illustrate the personal bitterness and passion, the unrestrained calumny and misrepresentation of motive then considered legitimate in political propaganda. He was a cunning satirist; by a ruthless extrapolation of some of Berry's speeches he burdened the radical premier with the assertion that he 'would make Victoria a Paradise for the working man' and a 'Happy Land' for the lower orders, and then satirized the failure of this Utopian dream. Keenly aware of the public temper, Carrington could create humour out of any propaganda, and his exaggeration of the personal characteristics and idiosyncrasies of political figures made them as familiar to the man in the street as comic strip characters are today.

When Berry's 'embassy' to England in 1879 to seek constitutional reform returned unsuccessful and the Opposition demanded a statement of expenditure, a surplus of 6d. was shown. Carrington made much of Berry's 'magic sixpence', which became a byword in Victorian politics. He also made a popular character of 'Henderson Africanus', the negro newsvendor who was 'nominated' by an anti-Berry group in a plot which originated in the Punch office, as one of the reform 'embassy'. He lampooned the liberal-minded governor, Sir George Bowen, as a drunken buffoon surrounded by his 'Monkey Ministry' of Berry supporters. So scathing were his cartoons that the anti-Berry 'Constitutional' party considered them an important factor in the downfall of Berry and presented Carrington with a substantial testimonial raised by public subscription.

Carrington's work has sometimes been undervalued as a mere imitation of John Tenniel (1820-1914). It is true that his early cartoons, like those of many contemporaries, owed something to the English master; but it was not long before Carrington's line developed a vitality and flexibility which defied even the limitations of wood engraving. His work bridged the important transition in methods of reproduction between the woodcut and mechanical plates, and his later cartoons, engraved by process, hold their own by world standards in the style of the time.

With James Eville, sometime editor of Punch, Carrington published Adaptation and Localisation of Humpty-Dumpty, or Harlequin King Arthur, by John Strachan (Melbourne, 1874). Though his contemporary fame and popularity were due to his work in Punch, Carrington was a versatile illustrator and his work appeared in art exhibitions. He gave a vivid pictorial account of the capture of the Kelly gang in the Australasian Sketcher, 3-31 July 1880. In that year he bought a third share in Punch but, though still remaining the Punch cartoonist, sold out in 1881 and with Edmund Finn and James McKinley started the short-lived World. He soon sold his share in it and repurchased a share in Punch, now under the control of Alex McKinley. He remained Punch's cartoonist; his last cartoon, 'The Last of the Session', appeared on 15 December 1887. He was followed by Luther Bradley who adopted many of his mannerisms and personifications in cartoons.

When the Sketcher was merged with the Australasian, Carrington became art editor, and later was dramatic and art critic for the Argus. Sociable and jovial, he helped to found the Yorick Club; but though many knew him as Tom he 'went his own way', as a colleague said, and few knew him intimately. Kind and encouraging to new talent and active almost to the last, he died after a short illness at his home in Iona Avenue, Toorak, on 9 October 1918. By his wife Dora, née Clausen, he had two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Punch Jubilee (Melbourne), 27 Aug 1907
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Oct 1918
  • Australasian, 12 Oct 1918
  • Punch (Melbourne), 17 Oct 1918
  • M. Mahood, The Political Cartoon in N.S.W. and Victoria, 1855-1901 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1965).

Citation details

Marguerite Mahood, 'Carrington, Francis Thomas Dean (Tom) (1843–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Francis Thomas Dean Carrington (1843-1918), by Gaul & Dunn, 1868-69

Francis Thomas Dean Carrington (1843-1918), by Gaul & Dunn, 1868-69

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29507

Life Summary [details]


17 November, 1843
London, Middlesex, England


9 October, 1918 (aged 74)
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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